United States manufacturing certainly has changed in sweeping ways in the last 50 years. If there is one thing that is true of the economy, the job market, and the labor pool, it is that they are in continual flux. You and I have no control over those changes either. Regardless of that frustrating fact, that river of change will continue to roll.
Equally if not more important is the need for workers to prepare themselves realistically for their future jobs. Chances are those new jobs will not be in manufacturing, but in some other market sector. Even for the factory jobs that do materialize, they will demand a higher-skilled worker. Charles Kenny does a great job summarizing these changes and trends (“Factory Jobs Are Gone. Get Over It” Bloomberg Businessweek, 1/27/14–2/2/14, pp. 12–13):
“More than half of all people still employed in the U.S. manufacturing sector work in such services as management, technical support, and sales. Over the past 30 years, manufacturers have spent more on labor-saving machinery and hired fewer but more skilled workers to run it. From 1980 to 2012 across the whole economy, output per hour worked increased 85 percent. In manufacturing output per hour climbed 189 percent. The proportion of manufacturing workers with some college education has increased from one-fifth to one-half since 1969.” (p. 13)
Although some workers continue to scream for their old factory jobs, I believe the more productive response is to go for the better job. Per the statistics above, that better job might be in manufacturing, but more than likely it will not be.
All workers today must continually remind themselves of the river of change in the economy, the job market, and the labor pool. We cannot control those changes, but we can control how we choose to respond. That translates to our attitude, decisions, career planning, continuing education, specialized training, and strategic thinking.
To go for the better job, you must prepare for the future’s job.